Friday, April 16, 2010

The media has failed us

This is a rant. A truly angry one.

I returned from Kumbh/rafting to have my friend Kundan ask me "have you heard about the latest Shashi Tharoor scandal?" No, I hadn't. I turned on our 'trusted' news channels, the ever useless bunch, and found myself in front of the telly for the most part of the day. I needed to catch up on news, you see.

I was bombarded with images of Shashi Tharoor; how he "may" have used Sunanda Pushkar as a "proxy", a woman who he is "friends" with and influenced investors to choose Kochi as an IPL team. Then the anchor went to the ever useful 'reporter on the ground' to ask, "Do you have any updates?" -- "No, none" -- Anchor: "Well, there you have it, no updates and no real information. Breaking news people, we are as lazy and useless as ever!"

The point is this: I don't know or care that Tharoor is guilty. It is the job of the media to tell me the story, not the million allegations they are throwing back and forth. News channels are not meant to gossip central, but no one has told our wonderful editors that.

At night, my own parents, normally really smart people, were on this anti-Tharoor kick. "Arrogant, tweets... " blah blah. I asked them if they had read his tweets or press release, or anything beyond the tv news story. They hadn't. I got angry, but then realised, how many times must I have done this? Trusted by news channel only to be fooled into an opinion by lazy journalism.

The more I think about it: I don't understand the media. And the media doesn't understand the story.

NOW - they ask, where is this IPL money coming from? For three years, they have given (what I assume is free) publicity to IPL, Lalit Modi and the whole gang because it was fancy, fun, had glitz and glamor. All the journalists, who keep having award shows to celebrate eachother, never once asked the tough questions -- where is the money coming from? how are they claiming to make profits? where did the Sahara group find money?

Editors like Rajdeep Sardesai (the most guilty in my view) keep writing columns and tweets lamenting the state of the Indian media and when will it improve, while actively doing nothing but chasing TRPs? We've trusted him, Barkha, Arnab etc etc and allowed them into our living rooms for hours on end, listening to them and their 'expert' commentary. I trust my lawyer, banker, waxing woman for god's sake, so I should be able to trust my anchors.

But I can't now, can I? For every Tharoor, Sania-Shoaib blah blah... they behave more like a gossip column than real news. There are countless stories across India -- good and bad -- that need to be in a news line up. Yes, they will cost money and physical effort to go cover, and you might need to leave an AC studio to do so. But they are important to India. It seems that Tharoor may or may not have had something good or bad to do with the IPL and that Lalit Modi might have allowed shady money into IPL is far more important to India and Indians than the home minister addressing Dantewada in Lok Sabha. Sometimes I thank my stars for Doordarshan and NewsX, the only channels who give you a range of stories, instead of parking themselves in a living room in Hyderabad for a whole day.

We need new people in charge of our news channels because it seems like our current guards have failed us. This is a plea. Please do your duty. Don't chase TRPs and easy reporting, but fight the good fight. Serve the country. I know that has nothing to do with getting nominated to Rajya Sabha or winning India's highest civilian honor. But for yourself and for us.

NEWS. Not opinion. Not gossip. Not allegations. NEWS. Please, please, please.


Kundan Singh said...

in business the favorite buzz word always is sustainability, " will this business sustain itself, how will it sustain itself?". with the ipl from day 1 my only question was how will it sustain itself? How do you justify the prices being paid for the teams or the players?
But the media never asked these questions, they were too distracted by the shiny lights - " ooh so many millions spent, woow preity vs shahrukh tonight?, Deepika is rooting for RCB etc"

Tharoor may or may not have proxy stake in the Kochi team, i dont care. If he does then hes played by the rules and not breached any law and definitely doesnt need to resign on any ground. (no matter how hard the opposition scream).

I was listening to Sunanda Pushkars lawyer last night and for once it was so good to hear someone talking sense. Rajdeep was just looking for knee jerk reactions , " will she sue lalit modi etc?" he said no but she may want to sue the media which has started a smear campaign against her.

And its true the media pounced on her demanding know where she got the money from. How come they didnt ask the same questions of Preity Zinta 3 years earlier? Because the Bollywood glitterati invites them to parties, lets them rub shoulders with the la-de-da.

The more i see indian media more im reminded of Jon Stewarts legendary interview on cross fire. he was so correct - " ask the tough questions, dont play into the hands of the politicians and you (the media) has a moral obligation to society which you failed miserably"

I read this in a book - "You know what the difference between news and gossip is? News tells you what people did, gossip tells you how much they enjoyed it"

Arnab, Rajdeep, Pranoy, Barkha step up to the plate tell us who did what

Anonymous said...

Glad to read this post. All the rest seem to be saying 'Guilty until proven innocent.'

J said...

Loved the rant.

The Dude said...

couldnt agree more.. but not likely.. tv news media is going to become more and more an opinionated and gossip mongering entity for some time to come..
there's no news like bad and shocking news and that gets ratings and money and thats all they care about.
it blows.
maybe someday.. till then find alternate sources!

egg style said...

Well, on TV etc, my position tends to veer towards Groucho Marx's: it does wonders for my reading--whenever someone turns on the television I go to another room and read a book (though I must add a caveat: 9XM aint bad at all in terms of meeting expectations).

On Laffaire Rendezvous, my position is even less nuanced: the Tharoor vs Modi tip-for-tat tweet exchange put the real "double-fault" of the times on display (not the Sania-Shoaib saga), both emerging from the scandal smelling of rotten roses (or maybe tulips). One only hopes Twenty20 retains its bounce and verve.

Apal said...

mahima all said and done i believe, the culprit is within each of us to forget such scandals like bad dreams. We can't do anything about dreams, but we can do something about decisions we take while choosing our representatives.

Even that is something at large, we even don't care paying bribes in occasions wherever needed, coz we just need to get the work done.

Now when IT has all the docs against Modi, why all the team franchisees are still in support of him, of-course there is huge money involved and I am sure this time too, nothing would get public.

Above all, the media which we believe as the messenger of God today to show us the real truth, has been the biggest manipulator in all these blame games.

Now nobody talks about govt failure on tackling maoists, where approx 100 jawans got killed in one side battle. UPA govt. has successfully delivered scams and scandals one after the other, but what has changed? Nothing! Because people there know that each of us are so busy in sustaining our lives that we cant even think about society and country.

I really appreciate journalists like you who actually propagate the real talks behind the scenes.

Jai Hind!

mahima said...

thanks apal! appreciate it!

Steve Lancaster said...

Came by your blog via the 'Myths To Live By' favourite book... In the UK we're gearing up for our latest election. The discussion is whether new media is being upstaged by the old - our first leadership debates on TV, and scandals about mics picking up the PM's private comments. Who's doing the discussing? The old media, BBC etc. What does it push off the agenda? Debates about the environment, economy, education.

I wonder where these debates go? If they're important, I mean? I wonder if they start to occupy our dreams, then seep out as myths, shout as art and architecture, and finally make politics by all means other than the political arena? Perhaps new media - twitter, facebook, blogging etc - is the best means to gather and spread this myth-making? Or maybe no media at all - the a-media, face-to-face world that never even makes it to public record?

Hmm. :)

IR said...

i had commented on one of your blogs , once that the media is as open to influence ( money , power , ideology ) as any other lot which has a national reach.

why do we think a news organizzation should expose the real truth , when its really an enterprise setup with the idea of making profits , it is suppose to pay salaries and it also expected to "expose" people that it benefits from .

there is serious conflict of interest ( accepting awards from the govt of the day ) , much like the credit crisis in the US, credit agencies are paid by companies to certify their credit worthiness , in order to raise money from the public !

which why it is in correct to label "media" as a saviour at large , i think we should realistic

Anonymous said...

Well the media has all the rights to express what they feel but i don’t thing it is right to influence the public with what they think.They are here to update people about the latest happening and tell them what their opinion is and that too not backed by facts.

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Sukhdeepak said...

This is a burning issue now. Actually now a days media does not highlight the real issues rather it bent upon baseless issues just to increase its popularity.

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